By Brian K. Bailey, DPM – Body-Mind-Spirit Podiatric Center
For most families, shoes are a major back-to-school investment. So choosing the right shoes – ones that fit properly, wear well and provide good support – is important. Unfortunately, most shoes today are purchased in self-serve shoe stores or even online … leaving parents with a job for which many are ill prepared.
The following 10 “lessons” are designed to help you become better purchasers of children’s shoes:
Lesson #1: How They Grow
Kids’ feet grow quickly, and in spurts:
• Children up to 16 months grow about a half size every two months
• Up to 24 months about a half size every three months
• Up to 3 years, a half size every four months
• After age 3, about a half size every four to six months
• By age 12, most kids are at about 90 percent of their final shoe size
Check fit often, especially for children who dress themselves. It is easy to lose track of their growth, only to find out their shoes are one or two sizes too small.
Lesson #2: Kids’ Feet Are Not Mini Adult Feet
In infancy, children’s bones are very soft. As they age, the bones harden (ossify), a process that does not end until age 18-20! When a child begins to walk, the arch starts to develop and the muscles of the feet get stronger. At this stage, it is perfectly OK for kids to walk barefoot inside the home. This allows them to build strength and grip in their toes. Outside, kids should wear soft, flexible shoes. Hard or stiff shoes can hinder healthy foot development.
Lesson #3: Every Foot is Different
It is very common for one foot to be larger than the other is. Therefore, measure both feet and try on both shoes before making a purchase. Shoes should fit the larger foot. The time of day matters, too. Feet are larger at the end of the day so the best time to try on shoes is then.
Lesson #4: There is More to Fit than Length
The shoe should fit the foot all the way around and be shaped, in general, like the foot is. When it comes to length, the longest toe should be three-eighths to one-half inch from the end of the shoe. Look for shoes with rounded toe boxes to give the toes more room for movement. The sides of the shoe should support the foot, but not squeeze it. Make sure the shoe is deep enough so that the shoe does not press on the instep, toes or toenails.
To ensure proper foot mechanics, the shoe bed must fit both the ball of the foot (where the big toe joint is) and the arch. The heel should fit snugly and allow only the slightest movement when walking. Adjustable shoes – those with laces or Velcro – can help ensure a proper fit.
Except for the very rare, special occasion, girls do not need to wear high-heeled shoes to school, or anywhere else!
Lesson #5: Shoe Size Does not Matter
As with most apparel, you cannot pick up a pair of size 10s and think they will fit without trying them on. Although there are “standard” sizes … every manufacturer interprets those standards in a different way. The number on the box is not what matters; it is how the shoe fits that counts.
Lesson #6: Choose Natural
The upper should be made of soft, flexible material that breathes and conforms to the shape of your foot. Natural materials, such as leather or canvas, are preferred. As anyone who has teenage boys can attest, feet sweat and can develop strong odors! Synthetic materials make this problem worse. Leather may be more expensive, but it wears better and looks good longer.
Lesson #7: Say No to Hand-Me-Downs
Families often hand down clothes, hats, coats, etc., and there is nothing wrong with that. While shoes represent a major expense for families, it is a bad idea to hand them down or to buy used shoes for children. Remember, shoes mold to the foot of the person wearing them. Moreover, kids have soft, pliable feet that are ripe for molding. Hand-me-
down shoes could result in poor gait and a lifetime of foot problems for the child who receives them.
Lesson #8: No Breaking In
If the shoes you are thinking of buying for your child are not comfortable from the very beginning, do not buy them. Kids’ feet are not designed to break in shoes. Wearing shoes that need to be broken in can actually harm the feet of kids, especially younger children whose feet are still very pliable.
Lesson #9: Measure, Measure, Measure
Measure your child’s feet each time you buy them shoes. If you are shopping at a children’s specialty shoe store, the staff there can help you avoid common pitfalls. Although you may pay a little more, you will make up for it in healthier feet and longer wear.
Lesson #10: Be Vigilant
Remember kids’ feet grow fast. The shoes that fit perfectly a month ago may be too small now. (As many as 53 percent of children wear shoes that are too small on a regular basis.) Monitor the fit and be sure to examine their shoes for signs of uneven wear, which may indicate a foot problem that should be checked by a podiatrist.
Brian K. Bailey, D.P.M., is a podiatrist with Body-Mind-Spirit Podiatric Center in Ashland, Ky. The office is located at 500 14th Street, at the intersection with Central Avenue. New patients are welcome. For more information, please call the office at (606) 324-FOOT (3668).
Dr. Brian K. Bailey is a Podiatric Physician & Surgeon with a private practice located in Ashland, KY. He is also a Clinical Professor of Podiatric Medicine & Surgery at Pikeville College of Osteopathic Medicine and a Personal Wellness Coach & Fitness Trainer. Dr. Bailey has written several books, including: Secrets to Happiness, Inner Peace and Health, Metabolic Syndrome 2011, Nutrients for Prostate Cancer Prevention and Eradication, Breast Cancer Prevention and Wholistic Treatment, and Prostate Cancer Prevention and Wholistic Treatment.
Body Mind Spirit Podiatric Center
500 14th Street, Ashland, Kentucky, 41101
Phone (606) 324-FOOT